A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 276

The most crucial question

FARMINGTON – The town is at present preoccupied with a number of profound philosophical questions, which are causing Farmingtonians to search deep inside their souls.

For instance, there is the debate about taxes. Should they go up 50 percent to pay for schools, or should we follow Alexander Hamilton’s advice of "Educate the best and shoot the rest."

Also noteworthy is the dilemma of whether or not to destroy old police personnel files.

"Better shred than read," some folks may suggest, while others, mainly policemen, are plodding all over the place in a tizzy of conservation.

But these conundrums are small potatoes compared to the really big controversies in town.

Goodbye, trees

Take trees, for example. Farmington Corner, throughout the years, has consistently come out against these large weeds that block sunlight, attract dogs, and frustrate old duffers trying to park downtown.

It is painful to reveal that trees have had their buddies. The ladies of Farmington Woman’s Club are particularly guilty of agitating on behalf of these troublesome vegetables. Harp on and on, they did, until, a decade ago, some cherry blossom specials were stuck along Main Street, despite the protestations of Road Agent Clark Hackett.

Well, stars glow and fade, and as the political influence of the Woman’s Club has waned with the departure of selectmen in skirts, Clarkie seems to have timed his counterattack to perfection, because those trees are outta here, leaving only Brad Anderson to mourn their passing!

Goodbye spindles

Then there is the big question of the bandstand in Fernald Park. Should it:

a) have itsy-bitsy, cutsy-wootsy, flimsy-whimsy little white wooden spindles round the sides, in an attempt to lure passing string quartets and millionaires from Wolfeboro?

Or, b) should those spindles be constructed from heavy-gauge angle iron wrapped in barbed wire and then electrified?

It is regrettable that a section of residents seem to be voting with their feet on this issue, rather than the ballot box, but in fairness, the issue was not on the town warrant last month. And, for the record, Farmington Corner favors the angle iron.

The crucial question

Talking of the town warrant, though, brings us to the most crucial topic facing Farmington now and 50 years into the future.

Mary Barron, speaking at this past town meeting, framed the thought very succinctly, when she pronounced, "We, as a town, have got to ask ourselves – does culture bounce?"

As a member of the currently dormant Farmington Town Players, Mary recalled for townspeople the challenges faced by cast members during rehearsals for the last play performed on the Town Hall stage.

Reciting lines while basketball players thumped and crashed around them was terribly discouraging, it seems, and so ball-bouncing has triumphantly banished amateur dramatics to the same limbo as downtown trees and bandstand spindles.

And yet, one still must return to the haunting question – does culture bounce? To which the answer is: Yes, if you would only let it.

Bouncing song

Over 15 years ago, in this very column, I composed what should, by now, have been adopted as the town’s anthem, and sung monthly at the opening of every Historical Society meeting instead of "My Country, ‘tis of Thee."

Sadly, though, culture with the merest hint of a bounce seems to be rejected in some quarters.

Nonetheless, here is the song again:

A Basketball Town

Good D! Let’s go! Play ball! Move it up!

Spread it out! Shoot two! Rawhide!

Don’t get intellectual,

It makes you ineffectual,

Then you’ll be sitting on the side.

Art and Lit. renouncing,

Just concentrate on bouncing,

Dem other guys keep trouncing,


Good D! Let’s go! Play ball! (etc.)

Can’t you just picture, on a beautiful summer’s evening in Fernald Park bandstand, the Farmington Basketball Male Voice Choir, encircled by angle iron palings, and accompanied by a passing string quartet, or a cappella, performing A Basketball Town with brio?

Does culture bounce, you ask? Of course it bounces!

Bouncing sculpture

And yet … another firm but terribly unjust rebuff of the notion of bouncing as haut culture, came just a couple of years ago, when a great body of architects descended upon Farmington to design an entrance to the town.

Staging my own rival charette, I came up with the brilliant concept of having a spreading tree (yes, a tree, but sculpted in ultra-modern synthetic materials, like Jim Thayer’s antenna owl) dripping with huge ripe orange fruit - basketballs!

"Welcome To Farmington, Where Culture Bounces," would have been the vibrant visual message of my plastic tree.

Was I congratulated and slapped on the back? Not darned likely! Ask yourself though, where are those architects’ bright and bold ideas? In limbo, with those bandstand’s wooden spindles and Farmington Town Players.

Other opportunities

And so, I appeal to the intellectual segment of Farmington to come to terms with reality and accept, once and for all, that culture does bounce.

Celebrated local weaver Suzanne Pretty could create a tapestry featuring basketballs, instead of symbolic objects floating through the heavens.

Renowned local photographer Jane Wingate, if she would only tear herself away from white birch trees for an instant, could capture the high art of basketball in an essential way that seems to elude sports guys Barry Carr and Mike Whaley.

The talented woodcarver Ed Demers, fussing over his loons and dulcimers in a Spring Street workshop, might be persuaded to embark on a really major work - A Farmington Basketball at Sunset.

Embrace reality

Mary Barron wisely posed the most important question facing this town, and we truly thank her.

Only when the inevitable answer "Yes" is much more widely embraced by our artists and philosophers, can the entire community march forward, arm in arm, into an exciting cultural future.

Now, about that basketball tree …

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